Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ulster County reimburses employees $347,000 annually for mileage

Ulster County reimburses employees $347,000 annually for mileage

KINGSTON – Over the past three years, Ulster County government employees who used their personal vehicle to travel for their jobs, racked up over 600,000 miles a year with the county spending an average of $347,000 in mileage reimbursements annually.

That analysis came from County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach’s office, which conducted its second “Measure 2 Manage” report for 2010.

“While Ulster County owns a fleet of vehicles for use by staff, there may be an under utilization of the resources that result in the high cost of reimbursement,” said Auerbach. “We expect this data to initiate analysis by departments regarding the economy, effectiveness and efficiency of the use of county vehicles as compared to the costs of reimbursement for mileage of personally-owned vehicles.”

Auerbach’s study concentrated predominantly on two departments: social services and public health.

The county has no policy regarding personal vehicle use and he said one should address responsibility and authority including vehicle ownership, condition and adequacy of insurance coverage.

He suggested the county executive and county legislature look into adopting such a policy.

“We want to ensure that both the county and its employees are adequately protected, especially those who carry passengers in the line of duty,” Auerbach said. “Likewise, we believe the county can better manage its expenses by instituting a personal vehicle use policy.”
(Copyright © 2009 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Auerbach Enlists Attorney General's Help


The New York State Attorney General’s office has recently contacted the Town of Lloyd asking what steps they will take to recover $270,000 in development fees that were never collected for a host of projects identified in a town commissioned audit covering the years 2004- 2008.
In a Dec. 30 letter, Town Attorney Sean Murphy informed the Town Board of the state’s interest in this issue. Murphy stated that he responded that Lloyd was in the process of determining what course of action they were going to take. The Attorney General’s Office indicated they will be contacting the town again by the middle of February for an answer on their plan of action.

Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach said he had reviewed the Vannacore, DiBenedictus, DiGovanni and Weddell audit report. Auerbach is the county’s chief official who monitors governmental accounts and expenditures.

“It certainly raised some concern and that is why I prompted the New York State Attorney General’s office to take a closer look at this,” he said.

Auerbach said Lloyd should have collected their entitled fees during the planning procedure.
“The town may have not charged and collected everything that was due to them through the process, and the report certainly speaks to that,” he said.

Auerbach said it appears the Attorney General’s Office is, “letting the town know there are some concerns here that were raised by the report and will most likely give the town the opportunity to remedy any of those issues.”

Auerbach said he is certain Lloyd has to reply to the state’s inquiry.

“I am sure the Attorney General is going to expect a response from the town,” he said. “More importantly I’m sure that the public would expect a response from the town. This is the type of issue, once brought to the forefront, will raise some public concern.”

Auerbach said the firm referred to their four-year analysis as an investigation. Auerbach highlighted the most significant sentence in the report.

“There were 21 instances out of 61 of maps being signed by the chairperson [Lou DuBois] of the Town Planning Board without the appropriate fees ever being collected,” Auerbach said. “Right there, that jumps out at you. I am sure that would raise issue with the Attorney General’s office.”

Auerbach said it is possible the Attorney General’s Office may “very well” force the collection of fees.

Auerbach again read from the report: [In] conclusion, our investigation uncovered that there was under-collection of subdivision, recreation, and drainage fees of $125,000 and $105,000 respectively.”

Auerbach commented, “We are looking at a substantial amount of money, close to a quarter of a million dollars and that is just for this window of time.”

Auerbach urged the town to go beyond the time frame covered by the audit.

“It would be in the best interest of the current town administration to address these issues that were raised and possibly go back several more years to see if there were any other inequities,” he said.

Auerbach said he thought the Attorney General’s Office will also re-examine the relationships between the town and the numerous developers who were cited in the audit.

“I am sure they will dig further into that as well,” he said. “They have a local government efficiency office that would probably look at this closely.”

Auerbach said his role in this issue is limited due to Ulster County codes.

“That’s why I felt it was incumbent upon me, once brought to the attention of my office, to bring the state’s Attorney General Office into it,” he said. “It’s going to be up to the AG to carry this further.”

By Mark Reynolds

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Auerbach “demystifies” comptroller’s role

Auerbach “demystifies” comptroller’s role

KINGSTON – Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach is responsible for how the county spends its money, and Tuesday he told members of the Chamber of Commerce of Ulster County how government is a responsible partner with the private sector.

“What we tried to do is demystify the office of comptroller, and explain to them how we do things,” he said, after the monthly chamber breakfast. “And just like them, we feel government should be run and be accountable as they do in their businesses every day.”

And like businesses, government provides goods and services. Unlike the private sector; however, there is no competition to provide a better product. Yet there is trust in government to do so.

Ulster County government works with businesses that provide goods and services to taxpayers, and those businesses must be paid. And it’s not always so easy to submit a bill and then get paid on a timely and preferable schedule.

“The biggest thing we hear from businesses is the slow payment time,” said Auerbach.

So Auerbach’s office has created a system to help provide those payments and increase government’s efficiency.

“We’ve created a vendor efficiency payment report to track that. By tracking that, we can see where the gaps are. And by seeing where the gaps are, we can speed the process along.”

Ulster County also provides funding for non-profits, and Auerbach said government, being the leading non-profit, shares lessons about survival and accountability by training them about the process of obtaining funding.

“With the non-profits it’s about making them better stewards with their money,” he said. “One thing I see with non-profits is that they don’t see how the process works. And by not knowing how it works, it frustrates them.”

Copyright © 2009 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc.)

Auerbach defends critical audits at Ulster business meeting | recordonline.com

Auerbach defends critical audits at Ulster business meeting | recordonline.com

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Nepotism Definition

Simply put, the definition of nepotism is favoring relatives. Nepotism in the workplace occurs when employers favor relatives in making employment decisions, with little to no regard for anything but kinship.

It was evident in our report of the Ulster County Health Department in November of 2009 (see excerpt below) and we brought it to the forefront. We are pleased to see that legislation will be considered.

2009 – 009
Ulster County Department of Health
Environmental Sanitation Division
August 1, 1994 – June 11, 2009

Issued: November 20, 2009
Employees in familial relationships ought not to work within the same department and division, especially in a supervisor/staff relationship. The standard of appropriate checks and balances between duties and responsibilities among staff is fundamental no matter whether or not a familial relationship exists.

(Page #20)

Hein issues executive order banning nepotism in county employment

KINGSTON – County employees in Ulster County can no longer supervisor their relatives. County Executive Michael Hein Wednesday issued executive order #1, which seeks to do away with the practice.

His order calls for all department heads, board, agency and commission heads under his jurisdiction to review their operations for any potential nepotism-related conflicts and issue findings based on the review. They have 60 days in which to do that and issue their findings to the personnel director along with any proposed action plan.

“As you know, Ulster County has an obligation to avoid conflicts of interest between work-related and family-related obligations, end nepotism or even the appearance of such and prevent family conflicts from affecting the workplace,” Hein wrote in a letter to County Legislature Chairman Frederick Wadnola and all legislators.

The county executive also urged the legislature to adopt a local law regarding the issue
(Copyright © 2009 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New York developer announces deal for purchase of Nevele Hotel

This is GREAT NEWS on the heels of last weeks Hotel-Motel Occupancy Tax Report. After speaking with one of the principals in the project I am cautiously optimistic that this all may happen. Mr. Weiss had a realistic approach to the project and an understanding of what needs to be done to bring the property and its reputation back.

ELLENVILLE – Tricon Development of New York City Tuesday announced the Nevele Hotel in Ellenville is under contract for sale to the Nevele Holding LLC in conjunction with The Giluet Foundation.

Tricon head Raphael Weiss said the buyer’s intention is “to restore the hotel to its former glory including concierge and first rate service, complete renovations, entertainment and luxury for all guests.”

Ulster County Executive Michael Hein the deal is in its “preliminary states, but the county looks forward to working with anyone who looks to ultimately restore the Nevele to its glory and bring high quality jobs to the Ellenville area,” he said. “The county is looking forward to working to make sure that takes place.”

According to Tricon, the buyer intends to reach out to all those to whom money is owned from past operations as well as the unions about hiring their members.

Weiss anticipates several hundred jobs generated for operations, work for outside contractors, increase in sales tax receipts, payroll taxes and other municipal revenues and economic activity in the region from visitors due to business, leisure and convention activity.

“There will be no dependence upon the possibilities of gambling/horseracing or other expectations other than restoring the Nevele to its rightful position as one and only Class A resort,” he said. “Such will go a far way toward reviving the economic fortunes of the area and bringing back the golden age that the area so rightly deserves."
(Copyright © 2009 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc.)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ulster will pay out over $20 million to make up school district taxes

Ulster will pay out over $20 million to make up school district taxes

KINGSTON – Ulster County can expect to lay out $22 million to local school districts for unpaid school taxes in the 2009-2010 academic year. The money will make the districts whole and cover the amount that goes unpaid by district residents. The county shelled out $20.8 million in unpaid school taxes for the 2008-2009 school year.

County Comptroller Elliot Auerbach, in his second “By the Numbers” report, said unpaid school taxes are expected to climb by over 50 percent since 2006-2007.

“It’s a trend that we see moving upward, in fact since 2006, it’s been on the increase to the tune of 53 percent,” he said. “We project in April 2010 that it will be $22 million. This past year it was $20 million, and that includes not only unpaid taxes from the schools’ original warrant, but monies each school district through state land.”

Auerbach said in better financial times this was less of a burden on the county.

It is a state requirement that counties make up the difference.

Copyright © 2009 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The $22m story...coming Friday 01.08.10



KINGSTON, NY (January 8, 2009)… Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach released a BY THE NUMBERS report indicating that the County can expect to make local school districts “whole” for close to $22,000,000.00 for their unpaid 2009-2010 school taxes. The County, by law (NYS Real Property Tax Law Section 1330), “on or before the first day of April “must pay to the fifteen (15) school districts “the amount of unpaid school taxes”. This is after the taxes remain unpaid subsequent to being re-levied on the 2010 town and county tax bill.

According to Auerbach, “unpaid school taxes are expected to climb by over 50% since 2006-2007

“In better financial times this was less of a burden on the County,” said the Comptroller. “As a matter of fact the County was rewarded with a 7% penalty for its efforts once the obligation was met.” “But these are unconventional times and a multi-million dollar strain will reek havoc on the already reduced fund balance or force the County to borrow in anticipation of the future revenues,” Auerbach said.

“As a county we inherit an annual financial burden that is not of our own making nor one that we have any control over,” Comptroller Auerbach stated.

Room tax revenue down in Ulster | recordonline.com

Room tax revenue down in Ulster | recordonline.com

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hotel operators, comptroller discuss how to boost room tax revenues

KINGSTON – In 2007, Ulster County collected more than $1 million from its hotel/motel tax. But in 2009 that figure dropped to $937,000.

On Wednesday, Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach wanted to know how to increase business and those revenues when he met with county innkeepers, resort managers and owners, and Chamber of Commerce and tourism officials.

“We’re seeing a considerable drop, especially when you see the 2007 numbers to the 2009 numbers. We’re close to a 10 percent drop in the bed numbers,” he said.

During the 30-minute meeting, questions were raised about whether all lodging facilities, ranging from singular B & Bs, to mid-level motel and national chains and resorts, were accurately reporting their occupancy rates and the taxes to coincide with those numbers.

“The folks here have been strong participants in the occupancy tax. Our concern here is: First and foremost is everybody participating paying the tax,” said Auerbach.

Large scale resorts are planned for Williams Lake in Rosendale and Belleayre Mountain on the Delaware County line. Auerbach said the county and the county’s lodge owners need to help bring in more operators to help with these needed revenues.

“What can we do to help the resort industry to bolster their ranks?” said Auerbach.

Jerry Luke, of Fox Hill Bed and Breakfast in Highland, attended the meeting. He said all lodge owners need to support their industry in the county.

“We want to help the county as much as we can because we’re all in it together,” he said.

And Luke feels all businesses are affected by tourism in Ulster County, a major driver in the county’s economy.

“It also affects every small business in the county,” he said, of the hotel/motel tax. “If we’re going to be collecting taxes, we want to ensure everybody benefits from it.”

Copyright © 2009 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc

Only one Ulster legislator had perfect attendance in 2009 - The Daily Freeman News: Serving the Hudson Valley since 1871(DailyFreeman.com)

Only one Ulster legislator had perfect attendance in 2009 - The Daily Freeman News: Serving the Hudson Valley since 1871(DailyFreeman.com)

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Ulster County Legislative Report Card

Rodriguez scores perfect attendance for 2009 as comptroller starts his “Measure 12 Manage” audits

KINGSTON – Only one Ulster County legislator had a perfect attendance at all meetings in 2009. Hector Rodriguez didn’t miss one meeting of the full legislature, public hearings or committee meetings.

County Comptroller Elliot Auerbach Monday released “Measure 2 Manage” report, this one taking a look at the county legislature and how the more than $500,000 in salaries and benefits were spent.
He said that he plans on issuing other such reports looking at other department spending.

“Things like gas consumption by county departments or reimbursement of personal vehicle use by county employees or E-ZPass use or money generated through hotel-motel bed tax,” he said.

Auerbach hopes his reports result in reflection and questions from county residents “and in so doing, create new strategies, ideas and concepts for continuous improvement in governance.”

For a complete list of how all legislators did regarding attendance, reach tomorrow's edition of MidhudsonNews.com. or go the Comptroller's website at